Cakes made at the Mendl’s patisserie play an important role in this film. They are sweet round things, with an appetizing and improbable shape and pastel colors which emanate sugar. They are made by a sweet girl and delivered to the Grand and Imaginary Budapest hotel on the peak of the mountains of an Europe that ceased to exist, or maybe never existed but in the imagination of writer Stefan Zweig and later taken over, amplified and brought to screen and to us by director Wes Anderson. A reverence to a world of beauty and aesthetics, of culture and respect, of honor and pleasure of living which is crushed by history, same as the world of Jewish Austrian writer Stefan Zweig was in the events of the  second world war.





The story written by Wes Anderson freely develops the themes and atmosphere of Zweig’s writings without being specifically based on any one, in a fantasy which extends beyond the historic boundaries of the life and works of writer. Europe survived the war but could not recover its history, its style, it’s human quality. If buildings survived they are condemned to decay, if men survived they are reduced to their shady selves. What is left is to remember the world that was – now retreated back in a past that looks more and more like a fairy tale. And fairy tale is what we are served on the screen, albeit a very fun and entertaining ones, and there are many reasons to like this picture even without philosophizing too much about its deeper meanings.


(video source StreamingTrailer)


One of these reasons is of course the cast – one of these exquisite gathering of stars that usually get together only on the Academy Awards night. Shining over all is Ralph Fiennes in the lead role, and I will stop here but I ensure you that even if you recognize some of the faces you will find out that most of them do something different and in a different manner that you always knew (Edward Norton may be the notorious exception). Second is the amazing visual world created by Anderson which coupled with the camera work gives the viewers sometimes a 3-D feeling (although no special spectacles are involved), and in other cases seems to play with the dimensions of the rectangular screen extending them at will. Third and neither last nor least the settings contribute to passing to viewers the flavors of well-being of the times that went away.

Stefan Zweig did not survive the war. When the world he loved crumbled crushed under the boots of the Barbarians he committed suicide. This film can be read like some kind of revenge. At least in the fantasy space created on screen by Wes Anderson a world similar in feeling, manners, colors, smells and tastes to the one Zweig loved survives. A world like Mendl’s cakes. Almost poisonously sweet.